Scare Acting 101 - More Do's and Don'ts in a Haunt

As with most lists, for every ten items that you think of someone else will think of another completely different set of items. After my last Do's and Don'ts list I kept running into situations, and given suggestions, where I realized there was more than enough material for a second list. It's a sad fact that common sense is not as common as you would expect, and sometimes things haunts didn't think they needed to teach, should have been taught.

Here is a list of additional Do's and Don'ts that are common to most Haunts. Some are from personal experience and some I've learned from my peers in the haunt industry. Some will not apply based on the Haunt you are working in or the role you play, but most are generally expected wherever you work.

Don't trust a Mime. It's the quiet ones you've got to watch.


  • Don't Scream in someone's ear - Any loud noise, screaming, whistles or horns next to a guest's ear is not scary, it's annoying. And in fact, can permanently damage someone's hearing if it's loud enough. It's also important to note that you can typically get the reaction you wanted with lower volume anyway.
  • Don't change your set - As an actor you are a vital part of our haunt but often the actors did not create, build, plan or design the haunt. Changing your set, specifically moving lighting or props without telling the build team or show runners is not acceptable, and could be a serious fire or health hazard. 
  • Don't respond to guest reviews on Facebook or other social media - When someone posts a bad and/or unfair review and you want to defend your haunt, avoid the temptation. While the intent is most likely appreciated, it really makes your haunt look bad. A petty argument is not a good way to handle dissatisfied guests. 
  • Don't get discouraged - Not everyone is going to get scared or even react. That's probably not your fault. If it's a common occurrence, try changing a few things to see if it helps, sometimes minor changes will make a difference. But don't stress over "the one that got away". Just move on and take it out on the next group. 
  • Don't be afraid to make a joke - One thing I can't state enough, at the end of the day we are entertainers. If a scare doesn't always work, don't be afraid to say something creepy or funny. We want to entertain the guests, if someone doesn't scare easy a funny comment might be appreciated.  
  • Don't Jump directly in front of a group - Always remember to "scare forward". You can come at a group from the side or from the front as long as you step out of their path. It's very easy for a line to back up on a busy night and that takes away a lot of the effect of the haunt. Conga lines are only fun at weddings.
  • Don't start a conversation - Same rule as above, you don't want to stall a group by getting into a conversation. In addition to slowing the line, the more you talk the less scary you get. 
  • Don't offer unsolicited advice - To be clear, if you see something that's not working the way the haunt runner intended, telling them about it is a good thing. But if you want to help, mention the problem and ask if you can suggest a resolution. This is more life advice than haunt advice because, regardless of the industry, most managers do not appreciate you telling them how to do their jobs. 
Do sneak up on your prey, like the ferocious beast that you are. 


  • Do follow the "7 second" rule - Get your scare and move on to someone else, or as I like to call it "Act and retract". Hanging around for more than seven seconds and following the guest after the initial scare will take away from the scare, and increases your chance of getting an upper cut to the chin.
  • Do pay attention to problem guests - If you see a guest that is being aggressive (or drunk), take notice of specific details about them. Clothing (type and color), shoes, height, hair color are important but try to find something unique as well. If you talk to security they'll need to have a good description and just saying "the tall dude with blond hair" could be one of twenty people currently in the haunt. 
  • Do stay out of punching range - Keep arm's length (theirs not yours) from guests at all times if possible. If you can't do that, make sure you have room to retreat if someone does take a swing at you. Not everyone is looking to start a fight, sometimes a swing is just a reaction when scared. But you need to not be where that punch is headed, regardless of their intention.
  • Do go low on tall people - When you see a tall person (at my height that's most people) it may be intimidating to try to scare them. But most tall people absolutely freak out if you go for their legs. Going at them around knee level is typically not something they expect and will get a reaction from them almost every single time. 
  • Do communicate with set mates - Always keep open communication with set mates and actors in adjacent sets. For example, working out signals when guests are coming, giving positive feedback on good scares, and passing along the names of a guest. These will enhance the experience for the guests and makes everyone's job easier.
  • Do appreciate the maintenance/build team - Most haunts start building and decorating sets weeks if not months before the haunt opens. It's a massive effort and hard work. It's our jobs as actors to make their work pay off. Take a minute to tell the build team that their hard work is appreciated and you want to do their work justice, they will certainly appreciate it and probably don't hear it enough.  
  • Do take care of yourself - 
    Stay hydrated and bring healthy snacks. If you're sweating heavily and get thirsty, it’s too late, you’re already dehydrated and you're going to spend the rest of the night trying to get "catch up". Drink water the night before and during the day. No energy drinks either, they give you a temporary boost but you might crash later, and most of them actually dehydrate you as well.  
  • Do be respectful to the Makeup and Costume teams - At larger haunts, make up teams work hard on you and dozens of other actors. Characters, costumes, and makeup are all planned ahead of time, don’t make demands or ask them to change specific things. It's a haunt not a salon, even if they can contour with the best of them.
  • Be memorable - As I said before, at the end of the day, we are entertainers. Saying something different and memorable (even if it's funny and not just scary) will leave an impression on the guest or their entire group. There's nothing better than hearing that a guest specifically mentioned you after they left the haunt. Now imagine the experience they would have with entire haunt filled with memorable people.
  • Do respect each other - We are all from different backgrounds and careers but we’re all scare acting for the same reason: to scare the ever-loving snot out of every person that comes through our haunts. Keep that in mind, and hopefully everyone you work with will do the same. The expression "Many haunts, one family" should be a lot more common than it is. 

Kenneth Leary is the author of the Practical and Theatrical Scare Actor Blog. He has worked in in the haunt industry since 2012 and is a year round student of scare acting and haunting in general. The purpose of this blog is to help others benefit from his research and experience in a humorous and informative way. He can be contacted at for questions and comments. He doesn't get paid for this, so he's not a total douche yet and will be happy to talk to you.


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